Winter 2015– April 2016

October 29, 2015  Started journey to Florida with first night in Beamsville, Ontario at the Holdenmeyer B&B+ after saying bye to Katie, Dave and Davis. Quick stop at the Lechs before crossing the border. Night of October 30th spent in Winchester PA and reached Chesapeake in time to carve some pumpkins and have Halloween Fun. Enjoy a few nights with Tom, Diana, Jacob, Hannah and Benjamin.
November 3/15  Arrived at Condo to unpack and start setting up our “New to Us” condo at On Top Of The World, Clearwater Florida.
Thanks to Charity Thrift Stores, Garage Sales, Craig’s List and our building free bins we had the place comfortable for our needs. Only big retail items were the new TV and mattress set for the guest bedroom.
Friday, November 13/15   Tom and family joined us at the Silver Lake Resort in Kissimmee Florida for a week. We went back to OTOW on November 19th after a day with the family at Tampa Busch Gardens. They had a quick look at the condo before returning to Kissimmee for another night. Tom and Diana and family came down and went back via the Orlando-Washington Train.
In December, I flew back to Buffalo – sister Dorothy picked me up and took me to Winona to be with Katie, Dave and Davis for a few weeks. Celebrated Katie’s birthday on the 7th and flew back to Tampa on December 15th. Celebrated Christmas Dinner with Brian and Thery King at their mobile home in Pinellas Park.
January 7/16 – Drove with Brian and Thery to rented house of Gord and Jill Hill in Davenport to have a “Firefighter’s Day”. Joined by Richard and Barb Croft and Debbie and Al Bentley (new Tesla car).
January 22/16 – Drove across Florida to spend a night at Richard and Barb Croft’s house in Atlantis subdivision of West Palm Beach. Drove into Miami Port area the next day to board the Norwegian Cruise Ship “Escape”. We were escorted VIP onto the ship since were were “Haven Spa” guests bypassing the other 4000 regular passengers. Our Spa room was on the 16th floor # 16110. Tom and family and Diana’s father Jan Lech (all flew down – bad weather on the East Coast) are on the 17th floor – in a 2 bedroom suite #17110.
After sailing out of Miami we were 2 days at sea enjoying the ship’s activities (upper deck rope course, mini golf; spa with steam room; salt room; snow room – not working; hot whirlpool and heated stone recliners) and shows (like After Midnight – Haarlem Jazz show; Million Dollar Quartet – Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins at Sun Records; and a female hypnotist), dining – Moderno; Cagney’s; La Cucina; Le Bistro; and our own spa restaurant,  and kids clubs – Splash Academy for Hannah and Jacob but Ben did not stay too long in the 2 and under Guppie group. Tom, Don, Diana and Jan all accomplished the rope course at the top of the ship. Jacob took some training on the small rope course. I was happy just to take photos of the daredevils – it looked my version of Hell to have to do it.

On January 26/16, we visited St Thomas, BVI. By local taxi, we crossed from the port, over the island to famous Megan’s Bay for a day at the beach. There was even a kayak rental included in our time. The beach had an undertow with strong waves and a foot dropoff near the shore so we had to be careful with the kiddies. Sandcastle making was fun.
On return to the ship from the beach we had a little time to check out the duty-free shops in the port of Charlotte Amelie.

On January 27/16, we sailed on to Tortola, BVI. Our adventure started with a long walk to the ferry which took us over to a port at Virgin Gorda (another island). The sea was a bit rough and Jacob’s breakfast didn’t stay down but that was his only seasickness for the whole week. Off the ferry we caught a taxi to the dropoff at the head of a Trail which lead to hugh boulders at the beach – spit out there thousands of years ago by the island volcano and the rocks stuck in the cooling lava. Don came along but stayed in the shade and feed the hermit crabs banana skins. I had a little fall carrying Benjamin on the way back up the path to the taxi scraping my forearm and leg but did heal after a few weeks. It rained when we were on the ferry back to port but we made it in lots of time before the ship sailed off. Thanks to Tom for planning our excursions and saving us lots of cash but using local transportation rather than the expensive shore excursions sold on ship.
January 28/16 were we at sea again and arrived in Nassau Florida on Jan 29/16. We took a taxi over to the Atlantis Resort and spent a few hours at their waterpark. It wasn’t a very hot day but we had fun - especially on their lazy river tube ride which wasn’t lazy at all – many rapids – glad to get out alive with the kiddies.
Few Extra notes and Pictures of the Cruise.
There was a games room – video arcade that the kids enjoyed. Here they are having fun with Opa. No money was spent on the games but the wheels turn and little videos play on the screens so it is still amusing.
On January 28th it was Diana’s Mom - Ellie’s birthday and she was back at home in Canada looking after Lincoln – her lovely Irish Wolfhound We were sending her greetings! Jan looked all over the shops in the ship and in port to find a special gift for Ellie but I think only found a pretty pink balloon. But he took a lot of video so she wouldn’t miss the highlights of the trip.
We did get all dressed up in our Nautical wear for an appointment in the Ship’s Photo Studio. But Hannah was not in the mood at all for her photo shoot so it did not go so well. Plus the pictures were way overpriced so they did not make any money on us.
Hannah enjoyed the kid’s club so much she wanted to go back to it after they got home in  Chesapeake. Jacob could take it or leave it but Hannah went to it even without her brother.
January 30/16 – docked in Miami Florida and Don and I drove back to Clearwater after dropping Tom, Diana and the children off at the Ritz – Carlton Resort on Key Biscayne so they had a few more days of vacation before flying home to Norfolk.
Rest of Winter in Clearwater Florida – Don enjoyed playing slow-pitch baseball with the Clearwater Three Score league for 2 mornings a week. He also did daily walks around OTOW – up and down and around the many buildings for an hour to keep his “Fitbit” happy. He did suffer from plantar fasciitis but kept going. He also volunteered for the Valspar Golf Tournament as a driver.
I kept busy doing the morning exercise classes – in the Activity Centres or in the heated pool, lots of cycling, line-dancing, walking and checking out garage sales and thrift stores for the finishing touches for the condo.  
Moe and Wanda Daoust from Lakefield (5th wheel trailer in Lakeland Florida) came for one night, We had a long bike ride over to Safety Harbour.
Rita (my cousin) and John Delo flew down from Toronto on Feb. 18 to Feb 23 to take in some Florida sunshine and golfing. The weather cooperating beautifully and they did a lot of biking to see the area sites.
Even took in the Clearwater Blues Festival on the waterfront of downtown Clearwater, Honeymoon Island and the Clearwater Aquarium. Special Dinner by the water in Dunedin.
On February 25/16  Sina vanderPijl (my girlfriend of over 30 years) flew from Amsterdam for a 2 week stay with us in the Florida sunshine. We biked many miles and took in many area attractions including the Dali Art Gallery in downtown St Petersburg, Safety Harbour, Clearwater Beach, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs. No rain fell on Sina’s holiday. Checked out the local Trolley systems too.

March 25 to 28/16  Tom and Jacob flew down to see us and take in a few Blue Jay Spring Training Days. Jacob had some fun with some new toy sharks, a church Easter egg hunt, ice skating at the local mall, swimming in the OTOW pools, Safety Harbour Chalkfest and hikes.

On March 25/16 we shut the door on our Clearwater condo to return after the summer in Lakefield. We spent a night in Hinesville Georgia before arriving in Chesapeake to celebrate Easter with Tom and Diana and children. It was a rainy Easter. On the Monday we planted pansies and the vegetable gardens. Back on the road on Tuesday, March 29/16 with our night stop in Winchester, PA. Over the border on March 30th and spent the next 2 nights at the Holdenmeyer Beamsville B&B+. We spent Thursday in Winona with Katie and Davis and Dave. Lunch at Gramma and Grampa’s in Toronto on April 1 and back to Lakefield by 3 PM after a grocery stop at Costco. We had a water problem with the Hot Water Heater on arrival but a new water heater was installed the next night.


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